Ledaig 19 (Cadenhead’s)


This Cadenhead’s cask sample was purchased at the same time as Monday’s Caol Ila, in Cadenhead’s Edinburgh shop in June. It was not purchased by me though. I was there with my friend Mike and while we both grabbed a 200 ml bottle each of the Caol Ila, he took the last Ledaig, the bastard. Later in more gentlemanly fashion he saved me a good size sample from the bottle. I think Mike liked this better than the Caol Ila. Let’s see if that holds true for me as well.

Ledaig 19 (53.7%; Cadenhead’s Manager’s Cask Sample; single bourbon barrel; from a friend’s bottle)

Nose: Big rubbery smoke mixed with that very Ledaig smell of death (a rodent in wet undergrowth). Some fruit struggles to make its way past the big notes (citrus, maybe plum). With more time the overpowering notes burn off (or maybe my nostrils adjust) and the fruit is more apparent, along with sweeter notes (vanilla). Brighter, sharper, ashier with a drop of water and the fruit’s more pronounced now.  Continue reading

Bowmore 15, “Golden & Elegant”


In the last year or so Bowmore have released a new series of whiskies for travel retail as part of a larger overhaul of their portfolio (the Small Batch has been discontinued). Somewhat unusually for releases for this market, the new Bowmores have age statements: there’s a 10 yo, a 15 yo and an 18 yo. Of course, since it’s for travel retail they also have silly names. The 10 yo is billed as “Dark & Intense” and the 18 yo as “Deep & Complex”. This 15 yo is “Golden & Elegant”. As you might expect from the name, this whisky comprises spirit matured in first-fill bourbon casks.; this is in contrast to the regular release Bowmore 15 “Darkest” (which I should really get around to reviewing sometime). Personally, I think teenaged bourbon cask Bowmore can be a very excellent and somewhat unique thing. Certainly the even younger Tempest (later sold as the Dorus Mor in the US) was very good. Let’s take a closer look at this one. Continue reading

Caol Ila 14 (Cadenhead’s)


I purchased this 200 ml bottle of Caol Ila 14 at the Edinburgh Cadenhead’s shop this June. It is one in their popular series of “cage” cask samples. Limited numbers of these 200 ml bottles show up in the Cadenhead’s shops every week and sell out immediately (from what I can make out). I’m not sure what the story behind these is. Are they true cask samples? Leftover bits from their single cask or small batch releases? A bit from column A and a bit from column B? If you know more, do write in below. All I know is that these are very enticing indeed and priced very fairly and entirely by age range, regardless of distillery of origin. I’ve gone so far on Twitter as to say that if I lived in Edinburgh I’d probably stop buying full bottles and just pick up a few of these 200 ml bottles each week. You can take that as confirmation that I quite liked the first one I picked up. Here are my notes.  Continue reading

Glenlivet 36, 1981 (Signatory for The Whisky Exchange)


I have not had very many old Glenlivets. And unless you’re a member of the whisky illuminati chances are you’ve not either. The few I’ve had have been very good indeed. The best of the lot was probably a Glenlivet 38, 1974 bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd for the Whisky Exchange in 2012, and which I emptied a few weeks before starting this blog (hmm I should check to see if I saved a sample from that bottle as was my usual practice in those days). This old Glenlivet was also bottled for the Whisky Exchange but by Signatory. It’s also, unlike the BB&R bottle, from a sherry cask. And as this is 2018 and not 2012, it costs more than three times as much. These are the times in which we live. Not so long ago a bottle like this would have been within reach of regular punters looking to make a splurge; now it’s only for the rich. But what is it like? Courtesy Billy Abbot, who passed on a sample to me when we met for drinks in June at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s London tasting rooms, I can give you my answer.  Continue reading

Springbank 10, 2017 Release


For some reason I thought I’d reviewed the Springbank 10 in the early days of the blog. The truth is I haven’t had it since then—more than five years now (though I did review the Springbank 15 a while ago). But I purchased a bottle recently and after opening it couldn’t figure out why I haven’t been drinking it regularly. It’s not because it’s overpriced in the US, like pretty much everything else in the Springbank portfolio. The price of the 10 yo is still in the low $50s in Minnesota, or pretty much where it was more than five years ago—this is in sharp contrast to the prices of their limited edition cask strength whiskies, which have gone from sub-$100 to more than $200 in some cases. But given the quality of the current version—and the fact that the 12 yo cask strength goes for about $90—I can promise you I’m going to be buying the 10 yo more regularly. Yes, I like this bottle very much indeed. For the particulars, please read the notes that follow.  Continue reading

Clynelish, Distillery Exclusive, 2018 Release


We stopped at Clynelish on the way from Dornoch to Scrabster, where we boarded the ferry to Stromness on Orkney. Well, more immediately, we stopped at Clynelish on the way to Wick. I was scheduled to tour Pulteney at 2, but it seemed rash to drive by Clynelish without even stopping. I hadn’t planned to buy anything there but when I was in the distillery shop I chatted a bit with one of the staff and she offered me a taste of the current  distillery exclusive. Apparently this was selected by the distillery staff, though they had no idea of the age or composition (or they would not say). It’s not a bottle-your-own—they had loads of it on the shelves. I quite liked it and couldn’t resist overpaying for a bottle. Why do I say “overpaying”? Well, because I paid £80 for an NAS whisky, and one that’s not at cask strength. Yes, unlike the 2008 edition—which may have been the previous distillery exclusive—this is bottled at 48%. That’s not a bad abv per se, but the price is still high (as it was at Oban and Talisker last year—and their distillery exclusives were NAS as well). I’ll probably have a post later this month with some thoughts on the whole “distillery only”/”bottle your own” thing. For now here’s a review of the whisky itself. I opened it for my local group’s July tasting and we all liked it a fair bit.  Continue reading

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2018, Fino Cask Finish


Here I am with my annual review of Laphroaig’s annual release for Feis Ile, the Islay festival: the Cairdeas (pronounced: car-chuss, roughly). I’ve reviewed the previous five releases—my most consistent commitment to timeliness. This year’s, like 2014’s Amontillado finish, also involves sherry and it also represents a failure on the distillery’s part to make my hopeful attempt at prediction come through: in the review of last year’s Quarter Cask release I’d noted it would be nice if Laphroaig gave us a young all-sherry cask release this year; but what they’ve given us is a a finish. Apparently, this is composed of six year old bourbon cask spirit finished in Fino sherry casks for an unspecified amount of time. Well, I quite liked the Amontillado release and I expected to like this one as well. (Keep in mind though that Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and I’m one of very few people who has liked almost all recent Cairdeas releases a lot—last year’s was the exception.)  Continue reading

Redbreast 15


Here’s another review of a widely available official release. This time it’s an Irish whiskey. My track record with Irish whiskey has not been very good. I’ve not had very many and very few of the ones I have had have made me want to have more. I’m sure this is just an accident of random, limited selection. In recent years, a number of older Irish whiskies from independent bottlers have received high ratings from a number of sources. And what is more, they’ve been lauded for their fruity quality—a quality I like very much in Scotch whisky. Unfortunately, I’ve not had any of those whiskies—they don’t come cheap and I don’t really spend large amounts of money on individual bottles any more. Not to mention, these are all European releases and it’s harder and harder to get those sent to the US these days.

Anyway, the Redbreast 15 is certainly easily available here. Though it’s been a while since I’ve last tried it—and I haven’t reviewed it—I quite liked the Redbreast 12; I was less impressed by the cask strength version, which I’ve reviewed twice (here and here). Let’s see what this one is like.  Continue reading

Glengoyne 12


Glengoyne is yet another distillery that I have reviewed very few malts from: only the OB 25 and 17 and a 14 yo from Malts of Scotland. Of these only the 25 yo really did it for me. Prior to starting the blog I had enjoyed the old Glengoyne 12 CS and the 21 yo. I’ve not had the 21 yo in a long time now but I do have a bottle of the 12 CS squared away. I’ll probably open it in a decade or two. Here in the meantime is the current, regular Glengoyne 12. I have no idea if it ever co-existed alongside the 12 CS. There is still a cask strength Glengoyne available but it is predictably now sold sans an age statement. And at some point the 17 yo seems to have turned into an 18 yo. I have to confess I haven’t really paid much attention to Glengoyne over the years, and in any case I am never very up on the ins and outs of distillery releases. Information you can get at other places. All I’m good for is dubious tasting notes of low utility.  Continue reading

Cadenhead’s Campbeltown Cask, June 2018


This Campbeltown cask at Cadenhead’s represents my greatest whisky regret from our recent trip to Scotland. This is not because it was a disappointment; quite the opposite. I purchased a 200 ml bottle at Cadenhead’s on my first day in Edinburgh (along with their Islay cask, a Glen Ord 13 and a Tullibardine 24). I opened it on the second or third night and loved it; considered getting a full bottle but didn’t want to lock myself out of potential distillery-only purchases on our upcoming sojourn in the Speyside and Highlands (given limited luggage space). If that didn’t pan out, I figured I’d get a bottle in between returning our car and heading to the airport on our way back.

This plan suffered a mighty blow first when Aberlour turned out to not have any distillery exclusives available on the day I visited, and then a fatal blow when I realized that our flight to London was an hour earlier than I’d thought it was. And so, no full bottle of the Cadenhead’s Cambeltown cask for me. But this wasn’t all to the bad: it left room for an unplanned purchase of the TWE Croftengea in London, of which more soon. Continue reading

Dailuaine 15, 1997 (Gordon & Company)


Back to the Speyside, and back to another distillery that does not have a visitor’s centre and one of the few, seemingly, that I did not at some point drive by: Dailuaine. It is owned by Diageo and, other than in the Flora & Fauna series, it sees no regular release. This is a shame—I’ve quite liked the few I’ve tasted and reviewed (two older ones—here and here—and this 12 yo). A decent number show up from the independents every year, though we don’t see very many in the US. This one was bottled by Gordon & Company—no relation to Gordon & MacPhail—a bottler I know nothing about. I bought these samples a long time ago; the whisky itself is long gone—and so these notes will have no utility to anyone. But being of no use to anyone is my core competency anyway.

By the way, this came from a cask that yielded 312 bottles. That’s a strange number for a whisky at cask strength from a single cask—a few too many bottles, seemingly, for a bourbon hogshead, and quite a few too few for a sherry butt (and as you’ll see, this does not seem like a sherry cask to me).  Continue reading

Tullibardine 24, 1993 (Cadenhead’s)


Our trip to Scotland is now over (we’re still in the UK for another 10 days though). As we spent most of our time in the Speyside and in the highlands and Orkney, my reviews this month have all been of whiskies from distilleries in those regions. This is true as well of this review, of an older Tullibardine. The distillery is located in Perthshire—just a little north-east of Sterling, in the relative vicinity of Deanston and Glenturret. I did not visit it. I did, however, purchase this whisky from Cadenhead’s in Edinburgh on this trip (as I did Friday’s Glen Ord); and so this is also my third review in a row of a whisky purchased and consumed on this trip (the Skara Brae Orkney malt was the first).

Tullibardine is a relatively young distillery. They’ve been in business since 1949. Amusingly, if you look at their website they try to fudge this with talk of a story that begins in 1488 and sees a royal charter granted for a brewery on the grounds in 1503; “our story” then jumps to 1947 when the founder apparently began converting “this original brewery” into a distillery. The age of this malt—bottled by Cadenhead’s—is more clear-cut: it is 24 years old, which is these days a pretty old age for a malt, and one for which no dubious narratives are needed. I finished this with a friend over a couple of days after purchasing it on our first day in Edinburgh. Here now are my notes.  Continue reading

Glen Ord 13, 2004 (Cadenhead’s)


We are leaving Orkney today and as we’ll be spending the night in the Highlands before heading down to Edinburgh tomorrow, I figured I’d post a review of another Highland malt. This is from a distillery not too far from where we’ll be putting up: Glen Ord. I’d had no plan to visit Glen Ord on this trip but when Aberlour disappointed me with the complete lack of a “distillery only” cask, I started grasping at straws for distilleries along the way to Dornoch that might have one. Accordingly, I called the Glen Ord visitor centre and asked if they had an exclusive. The person answering the phone helpfully informed me that all their whiskies are exclusive as they’re sold only in Southeast Asia and at the distillery; yes, I said, but do you have a cask that’s only available to visitors at the distillery. She repeated her information about the exclusivity of all Glen Ord bottles. Thinking that perhaps we had a case of battling Scottish and Indian/American accents on our ears, I handed the phone to a Canadian who has lived in Edinburgh for a year. She was met with the same response. All this to say that I did not go to Glen Ord after all. But this review is still trip-specific: it’s of a Glen Ord 13 that I purchased 200 ml of at Cadenhead’s in Edinburgh last week. It didn’t take long to disappear and I took notes as it did.  Continue reading

Skara Brae 10, Orkney Single Malt Whisky


As I am known for my highly timely reviews, I am pleased to present this review of a whisky whose existence I did not even know of until a few hours ago (as of this writing)—at which point I purchased a 50 ml sample immediately. It also turns out to be a whisky about which the world—or the part of it represented in Google search results and on Whiskybase—knows nothing. There are five whiskies with the name Skara Brae associated with them on Whiskybase but this is none of them. No, I purchased this at Skara Brae, the amazing neolithic archeological site on mainland Orkney—which you should really visit if you’re ever on Orkney (and take a detour from there to the Yesnaby cliffs on your way to wherever you’re going next). As you may know, almost every major tourist site in Scotland seems to have a branded whisky on offer (see here for last year’s disastrous mini purchase from Blair Castle), and this one, fittingly is described as an “Orkney Single Malt Whisky”. As neither possibility—Highland Park or Scapa—inspires fear and loathing, I decided to take a chance with £6. Let’s see if I would have been better of saving that money to buy a couple of pints of beer on the ferry back to Scrabster in a couple of days.  Continue reading